MMSD chief apologizes for report's
By Steve Schultze and Marie Rohde
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Stung by criticism over greatly underreported sewage dumping
totals, the top Milwaukee sewerage district official apologized
Monday for failing to disclose a seven-month-old consultant's
report outlining the problem.
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Executive Director
Kevin Shafer also said he still doubts the results of
the report and added that a new set of experts will be
hired to go over the study. If they find that the dumping
report was wrong, MMSD will seek reimbursement for the
extra costs from the original contractor or its insurer,
"I want to apologize to you again for not sharing
this with you earlier," Shafer told members of the
Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage Commission at a committee
meeting Monday morning.
Shafer also apologized to Scott Hassett, secretary of
the state Department of Natural Resources, in a July 11
letter, for failing to notify the DNR about the dumping
Though MMSD got its final report on the revised dumping
numbers in December, it was not publicly released until
this month, when the Journal Sentinel obtained it.
DNR officials will review MMSD records on the dumping
study at the district's headquarters today, said Charles
Burney, a DNR official who oversees MMSD.
"Our administration wants to know when did (MMSD
officials) know about this and what did they do with it,"
Though MMSD was not required to disclose the dumping
study to the DNR under terms of its state operating permit,
DNR officials would have preferred to see it sooner, Burney
said. MMSD mailed a copy to the DNR last week, Burney
Shafer said new consultants would double-check the math
and computer programming used in the $500,000 sewer overflow
study that Milwaukee-based Triad Engineering did for MMSD.
He doubts the accuracy of the Triad report, based on some
preliminary review by computer experts, Shafer said.
Triad's report said raw sewage dumping after three large
rainstorms had been low-balled by MMSD by an average of
72% in the reports it filed with the state. The district
dumped 4.9 billion gallons of untreated sewage into local
streams and Lake Michigan, not the 2.9 billion gallons
that MMSD reported to the state, according to the Triad
MMSD Commissioner Bill Christofferson said the district
wasn't shopping for more favorable findings by having
other experts review the Triad study.
"We are not looking for different results, we are
looking to make the program work that we've invested a
half-million dollars in," Christofferson said. "Good
or bad, we want to know the outcome."
Shafer said computer software produced by Triad to help
MMSD better calculate sewage dumping totals didn't work
right. In his letter to the DNR's Hassett, Shafer said
the program had not been successfully installed or tested
by Triad. He also said the new program was in the possession
of a Triad subcontractor who no longer was working on
However, Triad engineer Willie Gonwa said the software
was installed on a computer server specifically purchased
for the project, which was turned over to MMSD with Triad's
Asked about that apparent discrepancy, Shafer acknowledged
in an interview Monday that MMSD did have possession of
the program after all. But he said MMSD couldn't use the
program because of software glitches.
"We still have a product that we have not been able
to test or use," said Shafer.
Shafer noted that Triad's assumptions regarding river
levels and other measures that are the report's basis
for estimating the amount of sewage dumped are dramatically
different from those that have been used by MMSD.
Although the Triad assumptions "may well be reasonable,"
a second opinion is needed, Shafer said. The district
will also install gauges to more precisely measure the
overflow on 10 of the 130 dumping points as recommended
by Triad, he said.
Shafer said he planned to hire a national expert to help
fix the program and perhaps others to help MMSD recalculate